Essays on Faith: Letting go of Christmas? Maybe later.

I may be one of only a few people who listens to Christmas music and watches Christmas movies for days after the holiday is over. I enjoy my decorations, too. We’re the only family in our neighborhood who turns on the Christmas tree lights every evening until New Year’s Day.

I don’t mind being different. In fact, I thank God for making each of us different. What a boring world it would be if we were all alike!

The build-up to Christmas starts so early. By mid-September, if not sooner, you see trees and other decorations displayed in department stores and a month later, carols are playing, people are shopping and some start decorating — even before Thanksgiving. It goes on and on as the anticipation builds for three months. Shopping, cooking, decorating and getting together with family and friends. Finally, Christmas Day arrives. There’s the opening of presents, a gigantic dinner, friends and relatives stopping by, children’s laughter everywhere.

And then, poof! It’s over.

My dad always said, “Dec. 26 is the saddest day of the year.”

There’s nothing left but a pile of paper, ribbons and boxes to be discarded. Everyone is worn out and suddenly, all the cheerfulness and good will are gone. Some people want to get the mess cleaned up as soon as possible and put Christmas behind them.

What a letdown.

I had a text yesterday from my daughter, who lives in North Carolina. “I just want to get my life back to normal,” she said. She had already taken down some of her decorations but was reluctantly leaving her tree up a few days longer to appease her children. She inherited my mother’s “efficiency” gene.

My mother loved Christmas.

She started decorating the house the day after Thanksgiving and didn’t stop until every table, every shelf and every nook and cranny was decorated with poinsettias, tiny trees, wreaths, lights, Santas, elves, reindeer and anything else that pertained to Christmas. After everything was decorated to her liking, she started baking. Each day, she began right after breakfast and baked all day. She baked every kind of cookie you can think of and tested at least one or two new recipes every year. She baked fruitcake, applesauce cake, pecan pies and made two kinds of fudge — luscious chocolate and creamy peanut butter.

She loved shopping, too. It seemed to go on forever. Days on end it continued while our house became filled with packages to be wrapped. Some were secrets that I wasn’t allowed to see, so they were quickly hidden. That added to the excitement. I won’t deny that I did some snooping when my mother wasn’t at home. The suspense was just too much for me.

I once pleaded with her to let me open just one gift a few days before Christmas. She kept refusing over and over again, but finally gave in and handed me a beautifully wrapped present. “Go ahead,” she said. It took me by surprise. Holding that gift in my hand, I knew it just wouldn’t be the same if I opened it; it would take away the mystery and surprise that made Christmas morning special. After a few minutes, I handed it back and said, “I changed my mind. I’ll wait.”

My mother was a smart woman who knew exactly what she was doing. I never pestered her again to open a present early.

Although she loved Christmas, when it was over, it was over. It was not unusual for her to take our tree down and have every trace of Christmas erased by late Christmas night. When the last package was opened, dinner consumed and the dishes done, Christmas was over as far as she was concerned. I loved visiting my friends whose parents left their trees up until New Year’s Day.

And so, I drag Christmas out as long as possible. I seem to have inherited my grandmother’s “love of Christmas” gene. I’m not certain, but family scuttlebutt says that, one year, she left her tree up until the first of March. Her grown children finally threatened to take it down for her if she didn’t do it. She loved everything about Christmas.

I don’t believe I’ll ever go that far, but I’m never eager to take the tree down. And when we do, I do it with tears in my eyes while lovingly holding and recalling the origin of many of the ornaments.

As we approach the third day after the “most important holiday of the year,” I’m enjoying Christmas music on the radio and getting ready to watch a Christmas movie.

What a joy it is to celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus each year.

I’m not ready to let go yet.

Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro.

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Funerals for Monday, January 27, 2020

Davis, Valerie - 11 a.m., Cunningham Memorial Park, St. Albans.

Hamrick, Leonard - 1 p.m., Waters Funeral Chapel, Summersville.

Hughes Jr., Denver - 1 p.m., Curry Funeral Home, Alum Creek.

Keen, Cora - 2 p.m., Tyler Mountain Memory Gardens, Cross Lanes.

Lazear, Elizabeth - 7 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Masters, Delores - 1 p.m., Glen Ferris Apostolic Church, Glen Ferris.

Milroy, Miller - 11 a.m., Simons-Coleman Funeral Home, Richwood.

Petro, Edith - 11 a.m., Cunningham-Parker-Johnson Funeral Home, Charleston.

Phelps, Herbert - 2 p.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Stanley, Gary - 1 p.m., Pryor Funeral Home, East Bank.

Stewart, Donna - 1 p.m., First United Methodist Church, South Charleston.

Walker, Iva - 1 p.m., Roush Funeral Home, Ravenswood.

Wilkinson, Catharine - Noon, Raynes Funeral Home, Eleanor Chapel.

Williams, Joseph - 3 p.m., Tyler Mountain Memory Gardens, Cross Lanes.